StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-1124903280913.jpg’, ‘file photo by James Thompson’, ‘Cheap Trick drummer Bun E. Carlos (shown here playing at On the Waterfront in 2003) turned down being in the family roofing business to pursue his dream of playing the drums.’);
Cheap Tricks résumé is one that you already know. They are easily one of the most influential bands in rock music over the last four decades, and the love they share for their craft keeps them touring and recording almost incessantly. Their faces are known throughout the planet, and they have given a global voice to a manufacturing city with dreams of grandeur.
Its difficult to write a story about Cheap Trick that hasnt already been done sometime in the last 30 years. Even though journalists have undoubtedly asked the band members virtually every question imaginable, our lust for more quotations is insatiable.
With that in mind, drummer Bun E. Carlos checked in with The Rock River Times via telephone on the eve of his bands On the Waterfront show with Alice Cooper. He shared his thoughts on a variety of topics, including skeptical fans, future plans, and even makes a birthday wish of sorts for a bandmate.
Jonathan Hicks, The Rock River Times (TRRT): After 30-plus years playing in this band, what keeps you motivated? What keeps you still wanting to play shows?
Bun E. Carlos (BEC): We keep doing new material, and that helps keep it interesting. This is what we do best. People want to hear the hits, and we dont mind playing them. During I Want You To Want Me and Surrender when the crowd starts cheeringtheres nothing wrong with that.
TRRT: You, as a band and as an individual, have been cited by countless bandsbands that span a lot of different genresthat share one thing: the citation of you as a major influence. How does it feel knowing that during your time in this band, youve had that kind of impact on other bands?
BEC: Its great. When we started, people would ask us who influenced us, and weve name-checked bands that we grew up with. We never thought that wed be around long enough for the tables to be turned and have bands mentioning us. Thats high praise when your peers recognize you.
TRRT: Not long before he passed away, you had the chance to work with John Lennon. Can you tell me about what that was like or how you remember that?
BEC: Me and Rick (Nielsen) went in to do a tune with John and Yoko (Ono), because they were having a hard time getting a feel for one of the songs they were working on. The guy who produced it said, Yeah, I know a couple of guys that can probably do that song really good. So they called us upit was pretty cool, obviously a highlight of your musical career. We walked in and John Lennons standing there, and he said You guys are in Cheap Trick! So he knew who we were. They told him our names, but they didnt tell him what band we were in, but when he saw us, he kind of recognized us. Hed obviously been keeping up with his stuff. It was really cool. Working with him and working with Yoko was great.
TRRT: In the time that youve been a band, youve had the opportunity to see Rockford change, probably in a lot of different ways. How has the Rockford music scene changed in those 30 years?
BEC: When we started, there were a lot more places to play a lot more opportunities for live musicians to work. We didnt have any DJs back then. And the 18-year-old drinking age in Wisconsin and some of the neighboring states meant the stateline was full of clubs places for bands to play. So thats the big difference: theres not as many places to play, and, of course, back then you needed a drummer if you needed some drums, and now you can just go buy a box. Stuff like thats changed. Live musics just not as popular as it used to be.
TRRT: Do you still get excited about it on a local level?
BEC: Oh, yeah. We go out and check bands out. I went into the Fuse Studios and did some tracks with Mark Weller a couple of months ago. Hes a local guy, and hes got something to say musically. Theres a lot of stuff like that going on. Theres bands around town who are trying to get it going. And its tough for those guys these days. Its a lot tougher for them because bands are passé these days compared to what they were 30 years ago.
TRRT: So do you think that Rockford is a microcosm of a much bigger scale thing?
BEC: Rockford doesnt have a college, so it really doesnt have much of a music scene. Quote me on thatbecause it doesnt. But there are places like Kryptonite and Elixur and Chubby Rains theres venues that hire bands and feature bands and music. So a lot of people still like to do it.
TRRT: With the show coming up with Alice Cooper, and having seen you guys play here in Rockford a handful of times, Ive always wondered what the best and worst parts about playing at home are.
BEC: When you play your hometown, of course, every person you ever knew would love to get a free ticket. Then you also have your family, which, in my case, is a lot of people. So the guest list is a nightmare when we play Rockford. Of course, a lot of people out thereespecially at this point and time(say) Oh, Ive seen those guys I see them up at Waverly Beach. Were probably more famous out of Rockford than we are in Rockford. The neat part is that after a show, I can go to North Main (Tap) or Finnegans and have a beer or something and go home.
TRRT: Does it ever bug you that sometimes Rockford fans and crowds take you guys for granted a little bit?
BEC: I dont let that kind of stuff bug me. Id get more gray hair (laughs). Rockford is my home and its a nice place to come home to. If I want to be more famous in Rockford, I should go be more famous in Rockford.
TRRT: The big question this is a serious one. What does it feel like to have a really huge sock monkey dedicated to your band?
BEC: Ha! Thats something different. We go around the country, and we see different animals in different towns. A lot of towns do this they do a buffalo or they do a pig or something like that. (laughs) People from Rockfordtheyve got a sock monkey! People go, What the hells a sock monkey? And I say, I dont know, I dont have a clue. Mention a sock monkey outside of Winnebago County, and people just start laughing.
TRRT: If you werent in a band all these years, what would you do?
BEC: Id probably be in the roofing business. Thats the family business here.
TRRT: Happy with the drumming, though?
BEC: Oh, yeah. I quit the roofing business to be a drummer.
TRRT: Was that a choice that your family ever gave you grief about?
BEC: Of course. My dad was wondering what I was thinking when I did it. And the day I came home with my first gold record, five years later, he said, So are you ready to get a real job now?
TRRT: What can we expect from Cheap Trick in the next few months and years?
BEC: Next year, theres a new album coming out. Were mixing tracks. Were finishing up the album…its in the mixing stage and the artwork stage. So that will be next year. As for the Rockford show, we have to go on after Alice Cooper, so its going to be our greatest hitsevery Cheap Trick song that you ever wanted to hear or that you do hear on the radio. Well be up there playing them, and trying to make you forget the guy that was just on before us. Alice Cooperhes a tough guy to follow.
TRRT: What do you say to those people who are kind of on the fence who say, Ive seen Cheap Trick half a dozen times, Im not sure if I want to go out to On The Waterfront Why should they show up?
BEC: I think they should go f— themselves (laughing). They should show up because were great, and next year maybe we wont be here. They should show up because they want to see the band. Its a great night. I mean, having two bands like that, instead of one headliner, they get two headliners. Its a great value for the money. The Waterfront people put on these concerts at Davis Park all summer long, and its a great value. The bands you see in Rockford in the summergo see them in any other town and see what it costs you. Itll cost you twice as much.
TRRT: Was there anything that I left out or didnt ask about that you wanted to mention?
BEC: All of us in Cheap Trick this year are hoping
that the Rockford paperfor the first time in 12 or 15 yearsgets Ricks birthday right. The Rockford paper, for at least the last 10 years, has gotten Ricks birthday wrongand were sick of it. I pick up the Rockford Register Star, and I say, Well, they cant get Ricks birthday right, so I dont know if I can believe anything I read in there.
Cheap Trick plays the Great Lawn Stage on Thursday, Sept. 1 with co-headliner Alice Cooper. The On The Waterfront opening night performance begins at 7:30 p.m. Reserved seats are $36.50 in advance and general admission seating is $18. Tickets are on sale now. For more information, visit www.onthewaterfront.com or www.cheaptrick.com.
From the Aug. 24-30, 2005, issue